While the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins battled it out on the ice at Heinz Field on Saturday, a completely different battle was happening in the stands -- and on social media -- after a photo of Alec Lessner went viral.
Wawa vs. Sheetz
Lessner, 24, a native of Kennett Square, Pa. and lifelong Flyers fan strode confidently on the concourse, holding up his sign and letting everyone who crossed his path know that Wawa is better than Sheetz.
The photo, posted by @CSNPhilly, was liked more than 133,000 times on Facebook and shared nearly 30,000 times if you add in reactions from Twitter and Instagram.
We caught up with Lessner after five little words made him Internet-famous.
What was the idea behind the sign and was that your only idea?
"I really had only one idea for what to put on my sign. Considering the contentiousness of the election season and the nasty reactions people have had to protesters on both sides of the political spectrum, I thought it would be good to make a humorous sign that would inspire a more lighthearted debate."
What were some of the best reactions you received throughout the night, from both Flyers and Penguins fans?
"I actually love the city of Pittsburgh and the people who live there. We couldn’t have asked for a better reception. Almost every interaction we had with a Penguins fan was civil and fun. When we visited Market Square before the game, I made plenty of new friends.
"I met Katie, from Philadelphia, and her friends in passing, and we all agreed that this is one of the most important issues of our time.
Jamie: "Is this politically correct"— Katie:) (@Katiee_Bench143) February 25, 2017
Wawa guy:"I'm not a politics guy BUUUT i got some things to say" pic.twitter.com/vTHcmeaIYq
"I also made friends with Ed, a Marine who served three tours in Iraq. He was eagerly anticipating the game but got even more excited to see a fellow Wawa fan.
"One of the most common reactions Penguins fans had was, “I don’t like your team, but your sign isn’t wrong!” Plenty of them disagreed with me, but I was surprised to find that Wawa is super popular in Pittsburgh as well.
"Once we got to the game, the concourse was an absolute madhouse. We couldn’t make it five feet without taking a photo with a Flyers fan. People found the sign really funny, and “Let’s go Wawa!” chants kept starting organically.
"We even ran into the CSN Philly television crew after the game while grabbing a late night snack at our hotel. Keith Jones, Wawa fanatic? You bet!
What was the worst reaction you had?
"I had one drunk Penguins fan continuously curse at me, but other than that, most people understood the humor of the sign even if they didn’t agree with it.
"In my experience, visiting fans that are good-natured and friendly are always welcomed, and I followed that model of behavior in Pittsburgh.
What's the best thing about Wawa and what makes it so much better than Sheetz?
"That’s pretty much an impossible question to answer! If I had to go with my gut, I’d say the soft pretzels. I rarely make a Wawa run that doesn’t include the purchase of a pair.
"I know that Sheetz has fried food and burgers, but I personally believe that the quality of Wawa’s food and service is head and shoulders above Sheetz’s. The gas prices are better, the drinks are better and the overall vibe is better. It’s not really a contest, in my mind.
"I said this jokingly a lot in Pittsburgh, but Wawa truly is a lifestyle. Plenty of Sheetz fans tried to convert me, but I raised one question that stumped them all, “If you love Sheetz so much, where’s YOUR sign?”
When did you know that a photo of you had gone viral?
"I had taken a lot of photos with people in the city and concourse leading up to the game but had no idea anyone had posted one on a major media outlet. During the second intermission, we met up with a fellow season ticket holder, Pat Clancy, and his son Patrick. Their friends were all looking at their phones and pulling up CSN Philly posts as well as texts from their friends to show us. People kept walking by asking if I knew that I was all over the internet!
"The fact that people are still liking and sharing the posts is a testament to the power of social media and the passion Pennsylvanians have for their convenience stores."
What has the reaction been like from friends and family?
"Friends I haven’t seen since high school contacted me and other people I haven’t talked to in years have shared and commented on these pictures, which is wild.
"My family thinks it’s hysterical. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just give me Wawa gift cards for every birthday from here on out, which wouldn’t be such a bad gift. The next time I stop at my mom’s house, I really hope she’ll have picked up a six-inch Italian hoagie with American cheese, lettuce, onions and a little bit of mayo (hint, hint).
Anything else you'd like to add?
"I coach at the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, which provides free hockey instruction and leagues to Philadelphia kids ages 5-18. If you’re interested in donating money or equipment or getting your child on the ice, visit sniderhockey.org. Simons Mites, let’s keep up the good work!"